Two years before the norms of the Supreme Court were violated by the leak of a draft opinion on a major abortion case, the top Senate Democrat threatened conservative justices that “you won’t know what hit you” if they ruled on abortion in ways he did not approve of.
“Inside the walls of this court, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments, as you know, for the first major abortion rights cases since Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Gorsuch came to the bench,” Chuck Schumer said at a pro-abortion rights rally in March 2020, referring to justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
“I want to tell you Gorsuch, I want to tell you Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions,” the now-Senate Majority Leader shouted while flailing his arms.
A Republican congressman on the House Judiciary Committee sees a connection between the two events.
“It’s speculation to a degree, but almost certainly this [leak] comes from the minority on the court to disrupt or somehow produce public pressure to alter the course of deliberations,” Dan Bishop (R-North Carolina) told The Daily Wire.
That intimidation includes the specter of violence, he said.
“It is unquestionably true that there is an attempt to intimidate [justices], and whoever the actor or group that caused it, since they’re willing to intimidate I don’t think they’d [draw a line at] threats of violence. It’s very grave, when you have something like this that’s never occurred before in the history of the court. Since they’ll do things that are unprecedented, you don’t want to just sit back and see how far it will go,” he said.
Schumer’s office said his 2020 comments were “a reference to the political price [Republicans] will pay for putting them on the court and a warning that the justices will unleash a major grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision.”
But the remarks stood out to Steve Scalise, a House Republican who saw that unleashing regular people can lead to violence when a Bernie Sanders-supporting gunman shot him as he played baseball. At the time, Scalise called Schumer’s comments “unhinged.”
🚨 UNHINGED → Schumer threatened conservative justices Kavanaugh & Gorsuch on the steps of the Supreme Court:
"You have released the whirlwind & you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you."
Enough. This rhetoric has dangerous consequences. Where's the media outrage? pic.twitter.com/SiGNHxG0iX
— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) March 4, 2020
“I’ve never heard of something like this [leak] in the Supreme Court in my life,” said Bishop, who is a lawyer. “The deliberation process has a lot of tradition around it. In order to maintain public trust and respect, it needs to remain sacrosanct that people don’t betray the process. I can’t imagine a more harmful act to the integrity of the court.”
Bishop said, “the Left constantly goes around talking about threats to our democracy, but they are willing to do anything to our democracy: They’re willing to pack the court, take over all power to run elections, the ‘ministry of truth’ being created in DHS… eliminate the filibuster, add states to the U.S. without going through a constitutional process, make D.C. a state. There is nothing they will not do to get the result that they want.”
“The Supreme Court ought to investigate it internally and reveal who’s responsible, and there’s a certain set of circumstances under which it might be appropriate for Congress to hold such a person responsible,” he continued.
But there’s “not a chance that Nancy Pelosi would do such a thing. She and Schumer issued a statement that attacked the court, just as Schumer said ‘you won’t know what hit you.’ I think it’s likelier that [Pelosi is] in league with whatever’s been done.”
Schumer and Pelosi’s statement said, “Several of these conservative Justices, who are in no way accountable to the American people, have lied to the U.S. Senate, ripped up the Constitution and defiled both precedent and the Supreme Court’s reputation.”
It did not mention the effect of breaching the court’s secrecy rules. But a former adviser to Joe Biden and other Democrats on Supreme Court issues said Tuesday that “I’m extraordinarily concerned about what [the breach] does for the capacity of the court to function, and what it does to its legitimacy.”